07/13/2015, 00.00
LEBANON – SYRIA – PAKISTAN
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Malala celebrates her 18th birthday at a school for Syrian girls

In the Bekaa Valley, the Malala Yousafzai All-Girls School will help 200 girls and young women, between 14 and 18 years, get a diploma or receive technical training. The Pakistani activist and Nobel Peace laureate is in Lebanon for "the 28 million children who are kept from the classroom because of armed conflict.”

Beirut (AsiaNews/Agencies) – "I have a message for the leaders of this country, this region and the world: you are failing the Syrian people, especially Syria's children,” said Malala Yousafzai, the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize who yesterday celebrated her 18th birthday by opening a school for Syrian girls living in camps in the Bekaa Valley, Lebanon.

"I am honoured to mark my 18th birthday with the brave and inspiring girls of Syria," Yousafzai said in a statement. "I am here on behalf of the 28 million children who are kept from the classroom because of armed conflict. Their courage and dedication to continue their schooling in difficult conditions inspires people around the world and it is our duty to stand by them.”

Together with the Foundation Kayany, a Lebanese NGO, the Malala Fund will give 200 girls between the ages of 14 and 18 an opportunity to earn a high school diploma or a technical degree that will be valid in Lebanon and Syria.

Students who do not choose the four-year programme can opt for training courses to help them find a job and become economically independent. The new school was named the Malala Yousafzai All-Girls School in honour of the young woman.

According to the latest report by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the number of Syrian refugees has topped four million. For the young activist, this is a “heart breaking tragedy”.

"The worst thing is that the international community and world leaders are not paying attention,” the young activist said, “and that's what drives me to come here and celebrate my birthday and to say to world leaders: you need to focus on it and you need to invest here, otherwise it will be a generation lost."

After blowing out the candles on a cake shaped like the new school, Malala met with Lebanese Prime Minister Tammam Salam at his home in Beirut, accompanied by her father and Noura Jumblatt, head of the Kayany Foundation who had invited Malala to visit.

Lebanon is host to nearly 1.2 million registered Syrian refugees, though the total number in the country may be even higher.

On 9 October 2012, Malala was the victim of a Taliban attack in the Swat Valley, in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, a mountainous province on the border with Afghanistan, and a stronghold of Islamic extremists. She was hit on the the school bus that was taking her home after morning school.

Saved thanks to an international campaign, the young woman had become famous in early 2009 when she was still 11 when she wrote a blog on BBC Urdu criticising Pakistan’s Islamic fundamentalists for their attacks against girls and girls’ schools.

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